And so, Marquette Golden Eagles men’s basketball has an open scholarship and an open starting spot heading into the 2020-21 season.
On Friday, Marquette sophomore forward Brendan Bailey announced that he would be forgoing his final two years of eligibility at Marquette to begin pursuing a professional career. Bailey had previously entered his name into the NBA Draft process back in late April, but had taken the necessary steps to remain eligible to return to the Golden Eagles. That’s not the case now, as he will remain in the NBA Draft pool for whenever that draft actually ends up taking place and will chase a basketball paycheck in one way or another after that.
#mubb @brendanbailey35 to pursue pro career. "“This has always been a dream of mine and Marquette has helped prepare me to make this dream a reality. Thank you Marquette, you will always have a special place in my heart.” RELEASE: https://t.co/sA17eq6bd8 pic.twitter.com/TDdco8DQHn— Marquette Basketball (@MarquetteMBB) May 22, 2020
Here’s the quotes from Bailey from the official Marquette press release:
“These past two years at Marquette have been incredible,” Bailey said. ”I would like to say thank you to my coaches, teammates and the entire Marquette community. You have helped me in so many ways and have given me two of the best years of my life.
“After counseling with my family, I have decided to forgo my junior and senior years and pursue a career in professional basketball,” Bailey added. ”This has always been a dream of mine and Marquette has helped prepare me to make this dream a reality. Thank you Marquette, you will always have a special place in my heart.”
And quotes from head coach Steve Wojciechowski:
“We wish Brendan the best of luck and are supportive of his decision to take the next step in his basketball career to the professional level,” Wojciechowski said. ”We are thankful for his contributions to our program the last two seasons and will do all we can to assist him with the process. His best basketball is ahead of him and we can’t wait to see where his journey takes him next.”
This is, to say it plainly, something of a surprise.
The 6’8”, 200 pound Bailey averaged 7.1 points, 5.2 points, and 1.1 assists as a sophomore in 2019-20, starting all 30 games that Marquette played and hitting 38% of his three-point attempts. His numbers were a little bit better in conference play, going for 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds, but it’s not like he suddenly exploded in the final two months of the season, either. In fact, if you wanted to, you could point at Brendan Bailey as a notable reason why the Golden Eagles lost six of their final seven games of the season. As Marquette struggled down the stretch for the second straight season, Bailey averaged just 3.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game while shooting just 29% from long range.
That’s generally speaking not the kind of performance that really attracts the attention of NBA scouts, especially when they’re already in the building to check in on superstar senior scorer Markus Howard. If you want to think about it a different way, this Yahoo Sports mock draft from May 21 doesn’t even have Howard as one of the 60 picks for the 2020 draft, while this one from NBADraft.net on May 15th has Howard going 50th out of the 60 picks. If Markus Howard and his ability to rain threes is struggling to earn a spot in the 2020 draft, then there is absolutely zero chance that Bailey is getting drafted.
There is a flipside to this, of course. The fact of the matter is that while Bailey just finished his sophomore year at Marquette, he also turns 23 in early June. He was always going to be old for his recruiting class — he was part of the same class as Markus Howard and Sam Hauser — but his two year Mormon mission has him two years older than your average sophomore. There is a finite length of time for anyone to be able to pursue a professional athletic career. Had Bailey not gone on his Mormon mission, he would have just finished his senior year, just like Howard has. Most people his age are starting to pursue the game at the next level right now, but he has two years of eligibility remaining as a result of waiting to enroll due to his mission. I can’t tell you how much Bailey would have developed as a basketball player if he stayed at Marquette for two more years, but I can definitely tell you that it might have robbed him of two years of being able to draw a paycheck playing basketball somewhere.
In short: As long as Brendan is entering into this next phase of his life with an open mind about where he’s going to be playing basketball next — aka not in the NBA — then good for him. I wish him nothing but the best.
After all, Juan Anderson averaged 8.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists as a senior in 2014-15, went undrafted, and in 2019-20, he made his NBA debut and played in 13 games for the Golden State Warriors before the season was shut down. Who knows what path lays ahead for Brendan Bailey?